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Sheila Stoll: Our family stories become a valuable piece of history for future generations

One of the really important things about humans, one that distinguishes us from other species is our need to tell and hear stories. I guess that makes me very human in that I love telling you stories of all kinds. You have the good grace to read my stories: Thank you.

There was once a little girl about 2 years old. Her older brother went to school in the morning so the little girl had time to spend by herself in a fenced play yard next to her house. There was a sandbox in the play yard, but she thought there wasn't a lot to do with a pile of sand, a little bucket and a spoon-sized shovel.

She liked to sing and she sang songs phonetically, not quite knowing what many of the sounds (words) meant. Not a problem when singing. She was also pleased with her new-found ability to do small tasks with her fingers and figure out what can be done with lots of stuff . . . like her clothes. Enterprising tot that she was, she put her skills to use figuring out how to take her clothes off . . . all of them. So she took them all off except her shoes. (The double knots in the laces of the ankle-high shoes were more than she could handle.)

Victorious, she stood on the bottom cross piece of the picket fence and clinging to the pickets she sang, joyous and proud. Her song selection was one she heard on the radio, Don't Fence Me In. It's doubtful she understood the appropriateness of her selection. Her naked, singing performance drew the stern disapproval of a boy visiting his grandparents next door. He rang the doorbell of her house and drew the little girl's mother's attention to the side yard performance. Her mother told and retold the story over the years until it was a standard part of the Sheila Growing Up Saga. Embarrassing.

I told stories about my parakeet, Budgie. I got Budgie one Saturday after my mother discovered that I was carrying around a dead Baltimore oriole in my pocket. I complained that my brother had a dog and my parents had each other and I . . . poor me . . . . I had no one. That bird did a lot of funny stuff over the years. The stories were endless. When his cage was in the corner of a large room with linoleum floor covering, the bird whistled perfectly for the dog. The dog would come running, sliding on the linoleum and crashing into the wall and scowling up at the bird who laughed raucously at the dog. It was hard not to grant human motives to a bird who behaved with such apparent malice. (The grammar-checker on my computer doesn't like my using "who" to describe Budgie, but I disagree. He was definitely a "who," not a "what".)

We all have stories. Each family has tales, amusing or scary, things that the family retells over the years. But there's a lot of stuff that doesn't get told, that is assumed to be either known to all or unimportant. But the fact is there are a lot of stories, incidents, history, that no one will know if you don't tell them. You can say you're not a writer, not a storyteller, but there are so many things about your life and your era that will be lost if you don't tell those stories

. Maybe you think no one's interested and maybe you're right. You don't want to bore anyone, but . . . and this is an important but . . . your stories are threads in the tapestry of history.

Maybe your grandkids don't want to hear about listening to the radio during World War II. But if you save what you remember, write it down, someday what you have written may be an important thread in someone else's telling of the history of the times we have lived through.

Everything we know about history we know because of what someone saved. Maybe it's stone monuments. In recent times it may be films, tapes and recordings, maybe it's pictures on the wall of a cave, maybe it's an old dress, a set of dishes or some letters.

Future generations will need your threads to keep weaving the stories of human history. Write it down. Record it on tape. Save it. Pack it away. It's history.

Write to Sheila Stoll in care of LifeTimes, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.

Sheila Stoll: Our family stories become a valuable piece of history for future generations 05/25/09 [Last modified: Monday, May 25, 2009 4:30am]
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